Whiteville City Council scraps beekeeping ordinance, chooses developer for new City Hall

WHITEVILLE, NC (WECT) - Whiteville City Council members walked into Tuesday's meeting with a proposed plan to regulate beekeeping, and walked out with that drafted ordinance completely scrapped.

The meeting was packed with people speaking up against the ordinance.

According to City Manager Darren Currie, talk of beekeeping regulations began about a year ago after Whiteville was named a Bee City USA, one of 62 across the nation. Currie said the city was under the impression that as a part of this recognition, it was supposed to have an ordinance that addressed beekeeping in the city.

Part of the ordinance drafted for presentation to council said people could have up to five beehives on their property within city limits.

Several people spoke on behalf of beekeepers, saying there is no need to regulate beekeeping when there is no problem with bees.

After the public outcry, council decided in a 4-3 vote to scrap the ordinance completely.

The president of the Columbus County Beekeepers Association said this is the right decision because there are no issues with bees in the area.

"We don't have any problems with bees," Ricky Boswell said. "We haven't had any reported incidents or complaints about bees, so no need for any ordinances if you don't have any problems with them. We want the City Council to know that we are more than willing as a beekeepers club to work with them.

"Any problems that come up in the future or if Whiteville starts experiencing tremendous growth, the bee club would be happy to sit down with to work out any ordinances that are needed to be comfortable, both the city and the beekeepers."

City Council said the topic will only be brought up again if there is an issue with bees.

Council members also voted to move forward with developer Smith and Allen LLC to build the new City Hall. The city's architect reviewed bids from eight developers, and Smith and Allen came in with the lowest bid.

Crews finished tearing down the old City Hall in January. Construction of the new one is expected to cost a little over $2.5 million and developers said they are excited to get to work.

"It's a legacy thing," Doug Allen said. "I really enjoy building buildings and then years later driving by and saying, 'Hey, we had a small part in that.' We've built buildings all over the state and it gives a certain satisfaction to your efforts."

The bid still has to be approved in March by the Local Government Commission in Raleigh, which Currie said Whiteville would borrow the money from. If approved, construction will start in April and is expected to take 11 months.

Council also approved a city pride initiative. According to Currie, the city has leftover travel mugs and car bumper stickers that say the City of Whiteville on them. Those items were handed out to city employees at an employee dinner.

Currie said the leftover merchandise will be sold out of the City Council office and put the money back into the city's general fund.

Council also reestablished the out of state travel policy for council members. Whiteville currently pays for travel within the state. If members have a conference or event out of state, only two members can go and those members are chosen on a rotating basis.

Currie said there isn't anything changing with this policy. Instead, council, mainly its two new members, was reminded of the policy. He said it's standard to reset the rules and reestablish the policy to make sure everyone understands it.

Currie requested a strategic planning session for the city with the administration and City Council to start looking at the city's goals for the next 5-10 years. After adding two new council members, Currie said the "dynamics of council changes," and they want to get the new members' ideas. He said he hopes to have this meeting scheduled for some time in the next month.

According to Currie, they'll also look at the city's long-term budget in the planning session.

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